A fire that occurred on an aircraft, which is understood to have been caused by dangerous goods, will now be judged by the Hong Kong high court.
The 777 Ethiopian Airlines freighter was about to depart from Shanghai for Addis Ababa in July 2020 when a fire broke out. Luckily, the incident happened before take off and nobody was hurt, but the $80m aircraft incurred substantial damage, including major losses to its cargo.
A report highlighted that the most probable cause was chlorine dioxide disinfection tablets that “spontaneously ignited in the high temperatures and humid environment”. Tests have confirmed that the tablets were prone to ignition at temperatures around 80ºC and damp conditions.
The outside temperature was around 34ºC, but temperatures of 80ºC were believed to have been reached inside pallets in the cargo bay. These high temperatures likely caused condensation inside the coating of the tablets, leading to spontaneous combustion.
The tablets were classified as dangerous goods, primarily as a class 5 oxidizer and secondly as a class 8 corrosive. On this occasion, four onboard shipments of lithium-ion batteries were not blamed for the fire.
The airline are suing the shipper and packer for compensation, who argued that since the incident occured in Shanghai the dispute should be handled in China. However, a judge has recently ruled that Hong Kong is the appropriate forum.